Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Testing a recipe Paris Brest Cake

The finished recipe was to look like a bicycle wheel.  It had pastry dough layers with a custard between the layers and was topped with a whipped cream hazelnut mixture. I have taken 50+ pictures and 4 videos of Marty and me testing this recipe.  This was a huge investment of time for us.  We spent hours on Sunday getting this cake ready to assemble.  Tonight we put all the parts together, sliced it, and tried to eat it.  Not good.  It went into the garbage.

I knew when we made the pastry dough it was not going to work.  I make cream puffs all the time and that is the type of dough this was.  The test recipe had way too much fat and liquid.  When it was piped into a circle, it spread, and when cooked it did not rise.  When we ate it, it was like shoe leather.

Marty is a very good cook.  He pipes food all the time.  He cooks pretty (I always say my cooking is all about the taste, but not pretty.)  He about died when he piped the pastry dough and it spread instead of standing up. I was upset that I had stirred this mess continuously for 15 minutes.  I switched arms and still felt like I needed my tendinitis arm braces.

I have filled out the survey and told them how bad the recipe was.  I will put some of the pictures in this blog, but not many and not the videos.  I will not waste your time as ours was wasted.

                                                             Stirring the praline topping
 Marty getting ready to pipe the pastry dough. 
 This is out of sequence.  Here I'm stirring the pastry dough for 15 minutes that Marty is putting in the bag above.
 This is the crushed hazelnut praline that was made, then crushed and added into whipped cream.
A slice of the cake.  You can see all the layers.

It was not a pretty cake, it did not taste good, and it totally wasted several hours of our time.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A couple of weddings

Wednesday I only had two wedding ceremonies to perform.  Only one of them is interesting, weird, trouble.

The couple was older.  The bride was 41 and the groom was 52.  She was extremely nervous, deer in the headlights nervous.  Her English was limited, but she understood everything.  She kept going back and forth on whether to do traditional vows or to say her own.  He wanted traditional.  Finally she decided traditional vows.  I asked if they had rings and he said they were speed dating and hadn't had time to buy rings.  I did the ceremony, pictures are taken and I asked the witnesses to sign.  First her son signs.  The son's name is printed out (fake name to protect the guilty) Sun Lee Wong.  I point to where he is to sign and he writes David Wang.  I take it into the marriage desk clerk.  Will the state take his Americanized name.  Her answer a signature is a signature.  No problem. 

I go back in the wedding room to have the second witness sign.  Then back to have the license certified.  As the clerk is starting to copy it, the son says that isn't my name. Huh?  You put in the wrong name, I said no , you gave us the wrong name.  We put in what you write down and give us.  His name was not Wong, it is Wang.  O and A are no where close on the keyboard, so not likely to be a typo.  Plus there were other mistakes that they had put into the computer.  The clerk puts in what they print on paper and hand to her , the computer puts in what they enter, and we ask them to read the monitor before the license is printed.  The four of them never noticed any of the errors.  So reprint, re sign. 

While the corrections are being made, the groom says, "We met 13 days ago.  I am out here on a road trip on my Harley and met her.  I can't stand to leave her behind.  So we are marrying and she and James will fly out to Colorado next week.  I will go up to Seattle and finish my trip and be home to meet them."

I find this situation very romantic and scary as hell at the same time.  I do wish them all the luck in the world.  I really really wish I knew the ending to this story.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monday Weddings

Monday as soon as I walked into the County Recorder's Building, I was given a license.  90 minutes later, I had just finished my 5th wedding.  Around an hour later I had a final wedding to do.  I was then finished for the day.  It felt good to be busy.  Some days I don't perform any ceremonies and that gets a little boring.

I had a mixture of cultures, ages, and lifestyles.  I also had the ubiquitous couple who ticked me off.

The couple were Asian, older pushing 50.  He was really emotional and was crying.  I was just ready to start and they asked if their friends downstairs could come up for the ceremony.  What part of is everyone here did they not understand?  I smiled and said of course, phone them to come up.

A young couple in their early 20s were next.  She had on a black strapless dress, a white flower in her hair, and black stilettos.  She had a full sleeve tattoo and one leg was tattooed. He also had a full sleeve tattoo.  As regular readers know, not a fan of tattoos.  But I have to admit the art work was beautiful on this couple.  They were so happy and so grateful that I married them. That always surprises me how grateful people are.  It is almost as if they didn't think they would be allowed to marry.  I understand happy, not grateful.

Now we have a tale of two couples, same heritage, different opinions on the importance of the civil ceremony.  Both couples were born in India.  Both couples had had a cultural ceremony.  And there things go their different ways.

Couple one arrived in jeans and tee shirts.  They just wanted the ceremony over, no interest at all in what was said or done.  Marry us and give us our certified copy of the license.  And they were gone.

Couple two were dressed to the teeth.  She had her hands, arms, feet, and ankles hennaed.  Who ever did them was an artist.  Beautiful designs. The bride said it took over three hours for her to be painted. She wore a heavy gold embroidered purple dress with a turquoise border, drape, and leggings.  She had on silver heels that had flowers on the toes.  He wore a suit.  This was definitely not an arranged marriage. There was love in the room. The couple considered the civil ceremony as important as the cultural ceremony.  They had saved exchanging rings for the civil ceremony.  They wanted both ceremonies to be meaningful.

One last story.  If a couple does not have a witness we ask the young person working in the Deli to witness.  One of the girls is a wonderful witness.  M brings her camera phone in case the couple doesn't have a camera. She will have the pictures emailed to them before they get back on the elevator.  Watching her take pictures is an education.  She poses them before the wedding, during the wedding she gives them clues on how to stand, hold hands, hold each other.  She is really good.  And after the wedding while I get the paper work done, she is posing them again.  These couples could have gone home with just a picture of them after the ceremony.  But no, M has done a professional job in 15 minutes to make sure the couple has pictures to show off to the world.  She is a force to behold.  And I let her do her thing.  She wants the couple happy and understands the importance of good pictures.

Later this weekend I will post about Wednesday's wedding.  Yes, I volunteered two days this week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Marty's Father Day

Sunday Marty went to see Green Lantern with our son Erik.  Erik spent the day with us and then went to dinner with us that evening.  His wife was helping a friend who had had surgery and couldn't join us.

We spent the afternoon in the kitchen learning how to use some apps on our iPhones.  Erik helped load an app that is a scanner for qr codes.  Erik and Marty say the code is the wave of the future.  We will see.  Erik also gave us hints on how to win on Angry Birds. Did you know if you touch the bird in flight it becomes multiple birds? 

                                                     My boys love their tech stuff. 

                                                      On the patio at A Cote

.                                         Our little boy with his Colgate smile.

Never go to dinner without your iPhone.  We had to google the wine list and some items on the menu.  We could have asked the server, but where is the fun in that?

Just some of the wonderful small plates we shared.  Mussels in an incredible spicy broth with bread to dip.  Fries with an aioli sauce.  We also had yummy fried calamari, smoked pork tenderloin, corn soup (we shared one bowl, I wanted one just for me), gnocchi not my favorite, and Croqued Monsieur (that would be a ham and grilled cheese which I could have done better).   The small plates gave everyone a taste.  The mussels and corn soup were my favorite.  The best part of this meal, part of the bill was covered by a gift certificate.  Thanks Kat and Duane.

Marty said it was a great day.  It was very special to have Erik spend the day with us.  Your child may grow up.  But in your heart they stay your little boy and you want time with them.  That time was the special gift to Marty.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Papa Jack

My Papa Jack is a lovely wonderful man.  If you don't know much about Papa Jack, you should read this for background. There are all kinds of tales to tell about Jack.  So I will tell a few. 

Mother was dating Jack when I was in high school.  His brother, who was a huge football hero,  and I had a class together.  Taylor didn't know I was alive.  But he soon knew me and my friends.  I called Jack, Papa Jack as a joke after I walked in on Mother and him necking.  The name stuck and all my friends called him Papa Jack too.  If Jack is my papa,  then his brother Taylor became my Uncle Taylor. 

Teen age girls are so silly.  We'd drive by the funeral home where Jack worked and hang out the windows and scream, "Hi Papa Jack". (not when there was a body there, we had some sense)  Then we would roar up the street into the service station where Taylor worked, dinging the bell for service. (for you youngsters, stations used to pump the gas for you, and they had a hose on the driveways that rang a bell inside when a car drove over it)  Taylor would come out and we would scream,  "Hi Uncle Taylor!!!"  Then we roared off. Only to return later that night. We never bought gas from that station.  This was high entertainment on a Saturday night.  I don't think Uncle Taylor has forgiven me yet.  I think I even called him Uncle Taylor at school.  Jack thought it was funny.

Papa Jack and Mother have been married 49 years.  He now is Papaw Jack to five grandchildren and to eight great grandchildren. He and Mother hadn't been married many years and he took her to his high school reunion.  I am thinking maybe the 15th.  His class mates are showing baby pictures and Jack stopped the show when he pulled out pictures of his three grown children and his grandchildren.  Love that story.

Lots of people call him Papa Jack.  Why, maybe because he takes care of the world. He helps any and all that need it.   When Mother's sisters were widowed, Papa Jack handled the arrangements, he even took them into his home for years.

Papa Jack is a HUGE  University of Kentucky football and basketball fan.  He and Mother tailgate at the football games.  They rotate with members of the family and friends on who brings the food. But Basketball is his love.  He loves college ball. 

In the mid 80s during March Madness, UK was playing in the regionals in San Jose.  Papa Jack, his brother and his brother in law got tickets and flew out to go to the games.  I arranged for a friend's son, Shawn, to drive our van and take them to the games. Shawn took off work and was thrilled to go to the tournament.  Shawn told us this story.

Shawn let them out at the arena, parked the car, and met them inside.  As they walked into the the seating area, the Lexington TV crew yelled hello to Jack, Paul, and Charles ( I think that was the brother with them).  Shawn was very impressed the TV crew knew these men.  Since these men never missed a home game, and made as many tournament games as possible, they were known and liked by all the sports people.   Shawn said it was a wonderful experience being with the "old guys". They had fun, they laughed, they enjoyed life.   They were there for the games, not just UK but all the games.  Shawn told them he wanted be just like them when he got old. Not sure how they felt about that word old popping up all the time.  They were probably in their 50s.

And that is what my Papa Jack does.  He enjoys life.  He helps the family to enjoy life.  He is there if we need him.  He stepped into an impossible situation.  A grown stepdaughter about to marry, a teenage stepdaughter about to cause some kind of drama and uproar, and a teenage stepson who wanted to be the alpha male.  And he made it work.  We adore him, we respect him, and he is our Papa Jack.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finally, weddings

Wednesday I was finally well enough to go in and do some weddings.  There was not a lot of action.  Maybe that was a good thing, it was my first day up all day for nearly two weeks. 

The first wedding was fun.  The bride and groom were very calm and business like until the vows.  The bride got the giggles saying her vows and then he got the giggles.  But at the ring ceremony they became very serious again.  I offered to take pictures of the couple and their witness.  Turns out the groom is the vain one.  I took 6 or 7 pictures before there was one he liked.  His eyes were closed, not really.  His smile was crooked.  He wasn't smiling. . .   At last I took one he was happy with.

The other couple were Indian.  She  wore a chiffon shift with traditional leggings. One female guest was in jeans and a silky top.  The other female guest was in a blue jeweled sari with leggings.  The best dressed guests were two little girls.  One was wearing a pink flowered A Line dress with leggings and Mary Janes.  The other little girl was in a traditional gold lame dress with leggings. This was a brushed look and not shiny.  She wore little gold slippers. 

The couple had done their cultural wedding, and this was just for the legalities.  Usually in this type of wedding, the couple has no interest in the civil ceremony.  They just want it over and hand them their certified copy of the license please.  Not this couple.  They considered this as important as the cultural ceremony.  They saved exchanging their rings for the civil ceremony.  They wanted something memorable for this, their real wedding.

Only two weddings, and that was probably a good thing.  I was exhausted when I got home.  Here's hoping Monday there will be lots and lots of couples to marry.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let me tell you how the day is going so far. . .

So far the day has been crap!  I had a dentist appointment today at 10:30 for a cleaning and check up.  That makes me probably the second appointment of the day.  Hold that thought.

I got up early, got dressed, did a couple things around the house and went out to the car at 10:00.  It is a 16 minute drive if things work.  I add travel time for the tunnel.  Sometimes it can take 30 minutes to go 2 miles when the tunnel is backed up.  It was backed up today, but it was only a 10 minute backup.  I drive in bumper to bumper traffic at 70 miles an hour, yes any slower I would be run over. I walk into the dentist office at 10:29.  I am checked in on time.

I asked the clerk if they were on time, she will check.  They are running about 5 minutes late.  I have to leave by 11:30, she says no problem.  I can see all the worker bees talking, walking around, nobody comes for me.  After 15 minutes I told them I was out of there.  Oh is something wrong?  Hell yes, for 35 years the hygienists have been late.  Always late.  Not the dentist. Just the worker bees.  I told the clerks ( and the poor man waiting for his appointment) that they are always late, they didn't even have me on the books one time, my time is as value as theirs is.  Oh let me get you a cup of coffee while you wait.  No, I am out of here.  And I walked out.  One regret, I unintentionally slammed the door.  It is a heavy door and went bang.  Did feel good to hear it though.

I posted on facebook while in the office waiting, and then in the parking lot I posted I had walked out.  I called Marty and told him.  Then I sat a little bit to calm down before driving.  I had to go across the street to buy gas.  Oh did I forget to tell you when I left home, the car's reserve fuel yellow light was on. 

The day just gets better and better.  The drive home on a commuter highway was full of 18 wheelers and other big trucks.  We rarely see trucks on this road.  And not in large numbers.  I thought I was on I 5.  For those of you on the other side of the Mississippi, that is equal to I 75.  Major artery with a gazillion trucks.  Now these truck drivers were obviously bored and were playing games:  don't use a turn signal and change lanes, let's drive slowly three abreast, in the tunnel go as fast as you can and scare those little cars, drive in two lanes when cars are coming up beside you.  Really a lovely drive home.

As I was driving my cell rang, a couple of times.  I didn't have my ear piece in, so couldn't answer.  Illegal to talk on a cell while driving unless hands free.  Turns out it was the hygienist apologizing.  She had called home and talked to Marty. ( he told her to call me, he told her they are always late and he understood why I walked out)  Stupid of her, she knows how far I live from the office.  No way I could have been home. 

I am not calling her back.  If she wants to talk to me she can try calling me again .  I am so ready to look for a closer dentist.  We moved away from the town where the dentist is 11 years ago.  But the dentist was good and we didn't want to train someone new.  But I am ready to find someone in Oakland.

So it is lunch time and how will the rest of the day go.  With all that has happened so far either there is no more bad stuff to happen, OR I will set the kitchen on fire cooking supper.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weddings this week?

Well no,  no weddings by me.  I have been fighting an icky, nasty, awful cold all week.  I did not go in Monday or Wednesday to the Marriage Factory.  The way I am coughing I was sure people would run if I came near them.

Tuesday, as I wrote earlier, I went to school.  I felt pretty good Tuesday, and then it was down hill.  I have done little all week except sleep in the bed or in my recliner.  I am better.  But just not 100% yet.

If I perk up and do anything exciting, I will post.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I love you more than honey

Yesterday was my last day volunteering with the first graders until Fall.  I am getting over a terrible cold with a cough and really did not want to drag myself out of bed.  But I wanted to tell them goodbye.

The children were working on memory pages.  They glued a picture taken  during the year and wrote about that particular event. They also wrote and drew a picture about their favorite place at school.  You would think the playground would be the number one place.  No, it was the library.  How that tickled me.  Books and reading won!

Then we did the end of the year testing for math.  As I walked around making sure they were on the right problem I was pleased how well most of them were doing.  This test is really hard: clocks, money, number families, reading problems, graphs, adding and subtraction, patterns, geometric shapes, and more.  Ms. H had taught them well.

I read a couple of chapters of Stuart Little to them and then Ms. H came up to me with a gift bag.  They had made a book of letters and pictures thanking me for helping them all year.  Well, that alone had me emotional.  And then she asked if anyone wanted to say anything to me.  The first little boy looks at me and says, "I love you more than honey."  Then nearly every child told me how much they loved me and how I had helped them.  I was in tears when I told them how I loved them and that they are the highlight of my week.  We were all so emotional by then that Ms. H said they needed to sing to me to cheer me up.  So they sang and danced the Chicken song.  This is the best link to hearing some of the words.  Then Ms. H and I taught them Do Your Ears Hang Low. 

By then we are laughing like crazy.  The kids are dancing around the room.  I am getting hugs from kids and from Ms. H.   It was a lovely ending to a school year.  I have promised Ms. H that I'll be back in the Fall.  What will I do with my Tuesdays until then?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Born on this day, June 3

June 3 is a day of births from Kings to ordinary people. George V in 1865 and me in 19 ?? . . . Birthdays are a big deal in my family.  You don't have to make the bed.  You can sleep in.  You are spoiled all day.  Yesterday was great. Phone calls started before I woke up, and are still coming in.  Friends in Texas woke us up this morning.  My wall on Facebook was full of good wishes. Snail mail brought lots of cards. Wonderful Marty brought me a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich for lunch.  And then he prepared an incredible dinner.

Lobster, corn on the cob,  (I cooked the next one) artichokes with curry mayonnaise, lemons from our tree, and gallons of clarified butter.  If you are a fan of PETA or you don't want to know where your protein comes from,  you might want to skip the rest of this blog. 

 The lobsters were huge.  One was 2 pounds, the other 2 1/2 pounds. The one Marty is about to grab was trying for an escape. 
 In the pot to be steamed.  You can see one is trying to get out.  Marty put the lid on and about 10 seconds later the lobster kicked it off.  The lid was held on for a few crucial seconds.
 The Birthday Girl watching dinner being prepared.  A nice show it was.
 The white on one claw is the lobster "blood" that has cooked and leaked out.  It looks like un lumpy cottage cheese.  Before it is cooked it looks like egg whites.  It is edible and high in vitamins and minerals.  I don't eat much of it, but Marty uses it like butter.
 Empty bowl for shells and artichoke leaves.  Almost ready to sit down and eat.  A couple of things are missing.                                                                  

Below is a picture of the completed meal.  The first bowl of melted butter,  and the wine.  Now we are ready to eat.    Grab your claw crackers and begin.                                                                                                  
 In case you didn't catch the wine label.  Flowers is one of our favorite wineries.  The artichoke is huge, bigger than a saucer.
After the meal. The bowl is full of shell, napkins, lemon rinds, and artichoke leaves.  I had just taken my last bite.  We had gone through about 4 napkins each. Lobster juice is everywhere. The place mats are toast.  My glasses are splattered with lobster juice, and I had dripped butter down my front. Marty had lobster on his cheek.  I love meals that make you work for the taste of goodness.

Thank you Marty for a luscious excellent meal.  What's for supper tonight???

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weddings, teeth, long term relationships

Wednesday was busy at the Marriage Factory.  I was there a little before 1:00 and they immediately brought me a license.  Two hours later I had done 6 weddings with no break. At 3:00 I got to sit down and I got out my book.  Five minutes later one more wedding.  Then I was done for the day. 

One couple didn't plan to get married.  They were going to marry later this summer.  But then they said,"Why not now?"  He was a fuss budget, concerned about how they looked.  They had come from work and weren't dressed up.  Then he wouldn't take his hat off because his hair was messed up.  Finally he agreed to take off the hat.  She took off her glasses, she didn't want them in the pictures.  During the vows she dropped the ring and she couldn't see to find it.  He nearly had a stroke, an interruption in the ceremony!  I calmed him down, we found the ring, and I got them married.

The theme of the day was long term relationships.  Five of the couples had been together or known each other anywhere from 7 years to 30 years.  They were gooey eyed as any young couple.  The love in the room gave me goose bumps.

One couple really stood out.  The groom T and the bride S each wore a pork pie hat.  She wore a long black dress and he wore black slacks and a black shirt.  When I called their names they were alone and I asked where the witness was.  The groom was upset.  The witness had disappeared.  They didn't know where he was.  I said find him and if you can't we will reprint the license and get the deli volunteer witness.  They searched the bathroom, the lobbies, outside.  No witness.  I said call him and see where he is.  The groom told me the witness D had done a lot of acid and other drugs in the 60's and he might not know where he was.  We lucked out, D told him he was upstairs waiting for them in the wedding room.  The groom is furious and ready to cause a huge scene.  I calmed T down, said I would handle the witness, and everything would be just fine. 

We walk into the little lobby upstairs and there is D sitting and waiting for us.  I mildly fussed at him for upsetting T and S.  And then we went into the wedding room.

sidebar: The bride has 3 or 4 missing back teeth, the groom has some missing teeth, and D he has some teeth.  D is a happy guy, just grins and laughs.  The bride and groom had had something to make them happy too.  But not to a point of not knowing what is going on.

Normally that many missing teeth would have been a huge turn off to me, maybe even a yuck moment.  But these three had personality.  The groom is still upset so I turn to give D another scold and looked at him, really looked at him.  This almost toothless product of the 60's is gorgeous.  The big grin with about 8 teeth shining at me has me grinning back at him.  Then I looked at his eyes.  They pulled you in.  He has Paul Newman eyes.  I told D I couldn't be mad at him because his eyes were so beautiful.  This toothless wonder is sexy as hell.

Thirty years ago T and S had been high school sweet hearts and then their lives went into different areas.  He was in the Marines for years (where he and D became friends).  He was married to a woman he knew he didn't love for 19 years.  And then S and T connected again.  Love was still there.

I rarely get this much of a story from a couple.  These three were my new best friends.  I thought I was going to have to tell them it was time to leave.  They talked and talked.  I know where they are going to live in Texas.  I know where D lives in downtown Oakland. I know what restaurants they had eaten at this week.  I know what hotel they are in and where the wedding dinner would be. 

I marry a lot of couples.  Many of them I don't remember by the time I am home.  This couple and D, I don't think I will forget.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

School is winding down

Usually when I work with the children, they come to me.  I sit in an adult chair and we work one on one.  Last week I worked with the children at their desks.  Each section of desks had a different task.  Some were doing creative writing, others were doing independent reading and writing about what they read. 

Then the killer group:  0 to 9 number tiles with a worksheet to fill in the blank numbers.  One problem was a number line with a blank spot, fill in the number.  Then another was  1__   comes right before 18.  Answer is 7.  1__ is between ___  and 19. Only use a tile once.  This group takes a lot of hand holding. I even had to ask Ms H about one question. 
The biggest part of the morning was at an assembly.  This was the dress rehearsal for last night's concert and Open House. There were songs, a play, drummers, and a MC who was telling terrible jokes that made even the children groan. Every class K through 5 performed.  That is 12 classes  They were darling, they were good, they were bad,  it went on forever.  The program lasted an hour and a half.  That was about 45 minutes too long for most of the children to sit still.  Last night the children waited in their classrooms until time to go on.

Yesterday we had our groups again and I worked with the children at their desks.  Let me just tell you I am getting too old to bend over a first grade desk for very long.  I can bend over, I can sit in the little chairs, I just have trouble getting back up.  One more week, and then no school until Fall. 

I do love volunteering with the first graders.  The change in looks and skills between September and June is amazing.  Yesterday I was handing out name tags that were made in August.  Some of the children I wasn't sure who they were.  They had matured, changed hair styles, they no longer looked like babies.  As for skills, they are using words like appreciate in their writing. Most can tell time on an analog clock.  Most know how to use money correctly.   Most importantly all can read.  Some very slowly and will be back with us next Fall.  Some can read several grade levels up. 

Every year I hope to help children love books as much as I do.  I also want them to be able to have the key to understanding all those symbols on the page. 

Reading, the key to everything.